Military

Permanent Change of Station Woes

This was first published on Military Spouse Advocacy Network and I am honored to work with them.

Permanent Change of Station (PCS) Woes-3

It is the best of times.

It is the worst of times.

It is approaching PCS season.

This month has been…. exciting, if I am being optimistic. My husband is currently attending training to be a pilot in flight school. While all training schools are a little bit different, they all have one thing in common, no matter your designator or military branch, LOTS of moving. But even if you or your significant other are not currently in a training school, you may be approaching a move yourself, as it is that time of the year for new orders to be cut, and it may be time for your family to move on.

This move was expected and unexpected at the same time. We knew we would be moving once my husband finished this portion of his training, however, there were two possible locations we could be sent to, either 40 miles away, or 700 miles away. We received our 700 mile relocation with 15 days notice of his check-in date. So, in a scramble,we have attempted to arrange a do-it-yourself (DIY) move, or personally-procured move (PPM).

Here are the steps I followed with organizing my PPM:PPM Timeline-5

Please be sure to refer to your Personal Property Transportation Office for additional help with your PCS move. You can also find additional tips and resources at http://www.move.mil.

Here are some of the pros and cons of the PPM:PPM Pros and Cons-3

We were able to complete our PPM, check in to our new duty station, and settle in with few bumps and bruises along the way. Unfortunately our desk did not survive the move, but that’s a minor mishap in the grand scheme of things. The military certainly likes to test our resilience and ability to keep calm under stress. I hope your move goes as smooth and as painless as any move can. Be sure to take some time to relax, breathe, and repeat after me, “This too, shall pass”. Happy PCS-ing, PCS-ers!

Military

The One Item you Cannot Live Without: Your Military ID

This post was originally published on Military Spouse Advocacy Network and I am honored to work with them. Military ID-2

You meet the love of your life. You fall in love and promise to stay together forever. Now it’s time for logistics. Your Military ID.

There is not much you can do without your Military ID. You will need it to gain access to the military base without your significant other. You will need it to shop at the Exchange or Commissary. You will need it to enroll/use Tricare, which are your medical benefits. You will need it to gain access to any and all entitlements or discounts you may be eligible for as a family member to a service member. For all of these reasons, and more, you need to make obtaining your Military ID a priority.

How do you do it? Follow the steps detailed below:

  • The first thing that needs to happen is you will be enrolled in DEERS using form DD Form 1172-2. This can be done one of 4 ways.
    • Your sponsor can use their CAC card to submit your information via the RAPIDS self-service portal. (This is a website accessible via the Department of Defense (DOD) website)
    • Your sponsor can sign into the RAPIDS self-service portal using their login information.
    • Your sponsor can fill out a paper form and have it notarized.
    • You can use your power of attorney to complete the form in your sponsor’s place.
  • You will need to provide documentation of your relationship to your sponsor to prove eligibility. This is your marriage certificate and your birth certificate.
  • You will need to provide two forms of identification. Refer to the list of acceptable forms of identification.

Pin the graphic below for an easy reference guide:How To Obtain your military ID

This information was pulled directly from http://www.cac.mil/docs/required_docs.pdf .

Military ID’s aren’t all business and no fun though!

You can use your Military ID to access great resources such as the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR). Depending on your location, this could include access to a movie theater, bowling alley, video games, party rentals, kayaks, sailboats, or even couples getaways. Our last duty station offered a couples retreat to do a local high ropes course! You can also utilize your Child Development Center (CDC) for child care (check with your center for availability), and shop at the commissary and Exchange for tax free shopping. There are a lot of benefits to obtaining your military ID, so try not to procrastinate!

If you have special circumstances or additional questions, be sure to click on the link referenced above and refer to additional information there. Also, do not be afraid to reach out to your ID office on base or your service member’s command.

Military

Basics for the New Military Spouse

This post was originally published on Military Spouse Advocacy Network and I am honored to work with them.Basics for the New Military Spouse-3

It was May 2016 and the day finally came when my whole world was about to change. My husband was leaving for Newport, Rhode Island for what would turn into fifteen weeks, to embark on his dream of becoming a Naval Aviator for the United States Navy. Officer Candidate School (OCS). We prepared for this for weeks. We made sure he had the right t-shirts, the right socks, he could run 1.5 miles in a certain amount of time, and even made sure he could do X amount of pushups and curls as well. We were prepared with stamps and paper so he could write. He had a watch for when he could have one again, and we prepared snacks and food for his drive. But I wasn’t prepared for the goodbye.

We woke up early, loaded his truck, and double checked we didn’t miss anything on the list. I was fine. I thought to myself, “this isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.” And then he turned and looked at me. And I wasn’t fine. I was excited for him, and I was excited for me, but I couldn’t help but cry because this would be the last time I got to see and touch his face in person. We hugged each other tighter than we ever have before, and I followed him outside to the truck. We hugged and kissed a dozen more times before I watched him back down the driveway onto the street, he made a right onto the next street, and another right on the street after that. As he drove away and the corn fields were between us, the tears stopped and I began counting down to when we would be reunited. I wasn’t ready for the goodbye, and I wasn’t ready for how quiet the house would be when I stepped back inside. It was eerily quiet.

The military is a challenging life to maneuver and you are  thrust into it in a way that is no better explained other than sink or swim.

“Hi welcome to military life, now I’m going to steal your partner away for you to figure it out on your own.” “Here, let’s talk in acronyms so you feel like you’re trying to translate a language you’ve never heard before!”
There are so many things I learned those first few months while my husband was away, and there is so much more I have to learn. There’s a lot of pride you can gain from learning something new or overcoming a challenge on your own, but if there was a cheat sheet I could have had last May,this is what I wish it would have said:

basics list

  1. Power of Attorney– If your partner will be going away for any amount of time, you need to have a power of attorney to manage important matters while they are away. It may seem intimidating, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Documents can be printed offline and you can sign them with any notary. If you are unsure, or still feeling hesitant, the legal office on base can assist at no charge.
  2. DEERS– Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. Your first acronym, and there will be many more to come. To get you enrolled in DEERS your partner is going to need your birth certificate, social security card, marriage certificate, and photo ID. These have to be originals or certified copies. For your marriage license, make sure you have the certificate from your county clerk’s office. We didn’t think about this, and when my husband presented the license the officiant filled out, it was not accepted. I then had to obtain the correct form and overnight the marriage certificate to Rhode Island. Why all the hassle? Your spouse will also need the certificate to enroll you in TriCare, in order for you to obtain medical benefits.
  3. Military ID– Get a military ID ASAP! If your partner has all of your documents, and is deployed, you will have to wait for him to send them back to you. It might be a good idea to have duplicate certified copies of all important documents, so both you and your spouse have a set. Once you have these items, go get your military ID. This will give you access to the base, Exchange, commissary, and will allow you to receive military discounts at other businesses.
  4. Social Media– Not everyone uses social media, but if you do there are some really great support groups and pages out there. Another spouse may be aware of a local page or you can do a search for your area and ‘military spouse’. Many times the groups are private, so you may need a member to add you. While my husband was at Officer Candidate School I was lucky to find a page for friends and family of his OCS class. The girlfriends and wives of the class then formed a spinoff group and we messaged each other every single day. Being able to share your experiences with others going through the same things cannot be substituted. No matter how supportive your local friends and family are, it simply is not the same. I still talk to these wonderful women to this day.
  5. Be Empowered– Your partner is embarking on this amazing opportunity to further their career and accomplish goals they’ve set to enrich their life and yours. This does not mean you are simply along for the ride. You can further your education, work on your health, your career, or even your passion.  While my husband was away I made multiple lifestyle changes towards a healthier lifestyle and lost 40 lbs! There will be times when you will be alone, and lonely. These are the times when you have to rely on yourself, and your strength to get you through. Reach out to a friend, in person or virtually (again those Facebook groups are great!). You have the power to make or break yourself.

When do you reach the point when you’ve learned all you need to know as a military spouse? I’m going to guess never. Have I mentioned the acronyms? There is a never ending supply of acronyms. The military is not static, and it is always changing and evolving. Right when you think you have it figured out- nope! How exciting does that sound? Or is it exhausting? Let’s be positive and say exciting!

Military

Preparing for a Military Move

This was originally published on the Military Spouse Advocacy Network and I am honored to work with them. Preparing for a Military Move-3

Moving is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Add to that the seemingly complicated amount of paperwork, communicating with the right departments, moving companies and your spouse, and moving as a military family can feel downright overwhelming.

Fortunately, the military is aware that a knowledgeable and informed family makes your life and their lives much easier! If you are a Navy family, Navy Household Goods is holding a series of webinars to answer any and all of your moving questions. You can read all about what will be covered and how to access the the webinars on their flier.HHG Webinar schedule - Jan - Mar 2018-2HHG Webinar schedule - Jan - Mar 2018

Not a Navy family? No worries! Move.mil also has very informative tutorials on their website, which can be found by clicking here!

My advice is to not wait until you’re facing a move to be educated on the topic. You will go into the experience much more at ease if you take the time to learn all you can now. I’ve been through two permanent change of station (PCS) moves, and I still intend on attending the webinars. There may be something new or improved that I don’t know, the military does love switching things up on us! Am I right?

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Military

How to Send the Perfect Candio (Candidate Officer) Box

Disclaimer: This post was written in 2017 when OCS was structured differently than it is presently.

Officer Candidate School (OCS) is a tough 12 weeks (or more if you’re unlucky). It’s tough on the candidates who are going through the training and it’s tough on the families back  home.

There are three phases to OCS for the candidates. First is the indoctrination phase, second is the Officer Candidate phase, and third is the Candidate Officer phase. Once the service member becomes a Candidate Officer they will be granted a little more freedom. This includes enjoying some treats from home known as Candio boxes.

When my husband was going through OCS, I spent so much time stressing about what to send, how to send it, and most importantly, making his box perfect. It was a big topic of discussion in the family and friends Facebook page, as everyone wanted to show their loved ones how much they were missed, how proud they were, and hopefully grant a small break after all their hard work of training. Hopefully the following information will help ease some of your worry and explain how to send the perfect candio box to your service member.

Pin the images for quick reference guides in the future! These guides will also be helpful for deployments and future trainings. Perfect Candio Box-3.png

Candio boxes are opened on Candio Christmas, the Wednesday of week 9. They have to be opened in front of a Drill Instructor or Class Officer, so be mindful of that! **”No tobacco, alcohol, weapons, medications, gambling paraphernalia, or live animals”** You can send any size box, however the large flat rate shipping box from USPS is most popular because they are easy to decorate, a good size to send any and all items you may want to include, and are budget friendly for shipping.

How to send your box:Candio box tips and hacks.png

What to include:Perfect Candio Box-4.png My Candio Box

I spent so much time (and $$$) putting together these candio boxes for my husband. I went with a rustic Americana theme and personalized with photographs from our 6 years together, his civilian pilot training, and of course our adorable cats.

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I filled the box with yummy homemade cookies (packed in decorated pringles cans), jerky, chocolate, chocolate covered blueberries, nuts, popcorn, a head scratcher, magazines, a book, emergen-c, starburst, a talking pen (it says No a bunch of different ways), gum, and a special gift (a customized bobblehead of my husband in a flight suit).

Additional Examples:

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All of these amazing candio boxes were sealed and mailed out, ready to go, and arrived with plenty of time for candio Christmas. IMG_6539

Helpful links:

http://www.ocs.navy.mil/ocs.html

https://www.facebook.com/OTCNewport/

https://perrinplacecom.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/candioboxguide.pdf

I hope this was helpful for you as you prepare your special care package for your service member. OCS is a complicated time for families, but if you’re preparing that candio box, you are in the homestretch now! Just a couple more weeks and you will be traveling to Newport, RI to reunite and congratulate your soon to be commissioned Ensign! Congratulations! You all made it through! 

Be sure to read how we’re doing after OCS!! We’re now trying to survive flight school!

Flight School Survival for the Military Spouse

Or just click on the military tab at the top!

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Military

A Trip to the Commissary

This was first published on Military Spouse Advocacy Network and I am honored to work with them!

take a trip to the commissary.png

When I first got my military ID, one of the first things I wanted to do was go to the commissary. I had heard numerous times you could find excellent deals on all different types of grocery items, and I wanted to experience first hand the savings. Unfortunately, while my husband was at Officer Candidate School (OCS), the closest commissary to our home was over one hour away. It just didn’t make sense logistically to take a trip all the way there to save a dollar or two on cereal, bread, and eggs-or so I thought.

When we moved to Pensacola, Florida for flight school, I joined multiple military spouse groups on Facebook and saw posts from other spouses asking if it was worth it to shop at the commissary instead of the closest grocery store or Walmart. The common answer seemed to be that, while some items were cheaper at the commissary, there were other items that were not. For two months I decided to take their word for it and not do the research myself. I typically shopped at Walmart and used the Savings Catcher feature on their app. This feature allows you to scan your receipt, and it will search surrounding stores for their advertised sales. If anything you purchased at Walmart was advertised for a cheaper price elsewhere, they will credit you the difference into the app which you can then exchange for an e-giftcard. I would typically get back $2-$6 worth of savings a week by using this feature consistently. It depends on what foods you buy and where you live to determine the  type of savings you will get if you choose to try Savings Catcher.

I decided to give the commissary a shot one warm February day in Florida, and I am so glad I did. I decided to do my regular grocery shopping at the commissary, so I could then compare what it costs there vs Walmart, since all my receipts are saved in the Savings Catcher app. Once I got home I compared prices, and this is what I found: every single thing I bought was cheaper at the commissary than it was at Walmart, as well as the advertised prices for cheaper prices at other surrounding grocery stores. While some items were a few cents cheaper, there were also a number of items that were $1-$1.50 less. This was such a pleasant surprise! Prices will vary depending on what you purchase and the brands, however, after this experience I am now a commissary convert and will be solely shopping at the commissary from now on.

Here are a few tips I would suggest for any other first time commissary shoppers:

commissary-tips-for-beginners

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Military

Military Spouses & Politics: Do we have a Voice, too?

This was first published on Military Spouse Advocacy Network and I am honored to work with them!military-spouses-and-politics

If your social media feeds look anything like mine, then your last year has been bombarded with political posts, memes, calls for action, protests, outrage, and posts of support for our public service representatives. For many new and seasoned military spouses there is a gray area as to how vocal or nonvocal we can be when it comes to voicing our opinions on politics. Can our service members get involved in politics? Can we as spouses get involved in politics?

First let’s define what getting involved in politics even means, because it is not limited to Facebook posts or protests. Think of political involvement as a spectrum. At the beginning you have getting informed. You can do this by reading reliable information from the media, following reliable news sources on social media, and following bill proposals by your representatives. The next level may include contacting your local representatives through phone calls, emails, and/or letters, or attending meetings held for their constituents. Then there is volunteering for your political party or working on a campaign. And at the other end of the spectrum is running for office yourself.

So, the question still remains, can a service member and their spouse participate in any of this? And the answer is yes and no. Imagine that! A complicated answer in our military lives.

There are rules for the service member on their ability to be active politically. The policy on this rule is the Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 1344.10, and was most recently updated in 2008. The DoDD does not take away the service member’s right to register to vote, vote, sign petitions, or contribute money to a campaign. Service members may even have a small bumper sticker on their car supporting a specific candidate if they choose. What they cannot do is use their authority to influence someone to vote one way or another. Anytime they discuss their political views it must be made clear they are their own personal opinions, and not an endorsement of their service branch. Also, they may not attend any partisan event in uniform.

Well that is the service member, but what about spouses? Spouses can say and do what they please in regards to political involvement. This means you can talk about politics. You can post on your social media about politics. You can volunteer for a political party. You can volunteer for a campaign. You can even run for office yourself. One would even be able to argue more military spouses should be involved, since so many policies directly impact our families in more ways than civilian families.

Some organizations that advocate for military spouses and military rights are Homefront Rising, and the Military Spouse JD Network. There is a network of people and organizations out there to help you along if you have interest in a future in politics.a milspouses place is in the house and the senate.png

Still unsure about what you or your service member can or cannot do politically?

Check out the article below! I found it very helpful in my own research:

http://www.military.com/spouse/career-advancement/how-to-get-involved-in-politics-as-a-military-spouse.html

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Military

New MilSpouse, New You! 32 Military Definitions to get you Through!

This was first published on Military Spouse Advocacy Network and I am honored to work with them!

new-year-new-you-3Weight loss, pay off debt, save money, learn something new! As if you could forget, it’s a brand new year and with that comes everyone making New Year’s resolutions.

You may have promised yourself to pursue some of these endeavors also, but chances are, as a new military spouse, you probably have something a lot more simple, yet so complicated on your goal sheet. Raise your hand if that goal is to learn the language of the military. Hello acronyms!

Or maybe it’s to survive your first PCS (permanent change of station). What in the world is a personally procured move? What about finishing your education or finding a job in your career field? MYCAA who?

You have a set of unique challenges to tackle and it’s something your civilian family and friends may not fully understand or be able to help with. This is where your military network comes in to offer the tools you need to save the day! To survive this crazy life as a military spouse, self-reliance, confidence and empowerment is key. So prepare to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and we’re going to learn some need-to-knows together.

Let’s start with the communication barrier. Who would have thought you’d need a translator when being married to your love in the military? As a former teacher, I thought the world of education had a lot of acronyms to memorize, but the military definitely takes the gold medal. The list is probably infinite, but here are some very common acronyms and vocabulary you’ll need to know to get started32 Need to Know DefinitionsFor the New Military Spouse-3.png

Whew! Are you ready for the quiz later? These terms will be old hat in no time at all and you’ll be on your way to fluent in the language of the military!

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Military

15 Motivational Quotes for Military Spouses

Confession time. I wasn’t entirely sympathetic or empathetic to the military lifestyle in my previous life. I don’t say this meaning I wasn’t grateful for their sacrifice, I just did not fully grasp the magnitude of their sacrifice.

Moving frequently?– How hard could it be?

Going months with limited or no communication with your significant other?– I’m independent, probably not that big of a deal.

Putting your career on hold, or having to find a new job with each move?– If you look hard enough, you’ll find them…

Oh sweet, oblivious, naive, ignorant me. When it is said that the military life is different from civilian life, this is not a drill!, it truly is a different beast. And now that I’ve been thrust into this lifestyle, I wouldn’t trade it for a single thing. With the challenges also comes a great deal of pride and empowerment.

But for the days when it is a little bit harder than most, remember these quotes. Remember you are bad ass. You are not alone. And it is worth it.

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Numero uno. Loving him is easy. I might not always like him. Or the struggles. But loving him is definitely the easy part. Don’t forget the love. Let it bring you through the dislike.
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2. Feeling like you have a purpose makes a world of difference in your self-worth. If you have contributed in a way that is useful, honorable, compassionate and makes a difference in another person’s life- how could that not make you happy? Try it.
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3. There’s a lot of waiting in the military life. Waiting on orders. Waiting while they’re away for training, or deployments. But we are patient. And we can wait a little longer for the ones we love.
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4. Your significant other isn’t the only one with a dream. Your life can also be lived with passion, compassion, humor and style. Find it and live it.
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5. Sometimes this doesn’t mean physically together. And that’s ok. You are still a package deal.
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6. You’ve got this. You is kind. You is smart. You is important. You is badass.
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7. Life is what you make it. Turn on the light.
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8. Hey look another quote about depending on yourself and positivity and self empowerment. There are so many to be found, because they are true!
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9. There is love. You love your significant other. They love you. You love this life because it is the life you have together.
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10. You may sometimes feel like you are playing side chick to the military. But remember, while he’s there, he’s wishing he was with you.
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11. You are NEVER alone. Welcome to the fam.
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12. You bad ass.
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13. When a little prayer is needed.
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14. Your strength is just as honorable. Your sacrifice is just as important. Thank you
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15. No caption needed.

It’s one of those scenarios when you do not fully understand a situation, until you’re living it. I could write a million words trying to explain how my life has changed in the short 7 months I have been married to a man in the military and it simply would not do it justice. So I’m just going to leave it be.

Do you have any favorite quotes to keep you positive, motivated and inspired? They don’t have to be military related. Share them in the comments.

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